Popularity of these brownies has helped Theobroma grow from a single cafe with just four tables to a chain of 13 outlets in Mumbai and four in Delhi-NCR region.
For a number of sweet-toothed Indians (myself included), no trip to Mumbai is complete without a brownie from Theobroma.
For over a decade, the patisserie chain founded by pastry chef Kainaz Messman has been serving up sweet treats as well as a range of breads, croissants, and sandwiches, to a loyal clientele in the city. But it’s the brownies on offer, from the gooey chocolate and caramel “Millionaire” variant to the red velvet with tangy cream cheese frosting that have helped the company make a name for itself among outstation visitors, too.
“The brownies are basically what made us famous,” Messman, who trained at Mumbai’s Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, told Quartz. “That sort of become the cornerstone of the business.”
The popularity of these brownies has helped Theobroma grow from a single cafe with just four tables to a chain of 13 outlets in Mumbai and four in the Delhi-NCR region. And in April, private-equity firm ICICI Venture invested $20 million to acquire a stake in the company, marking a new era for a family-run business that started out small in South Mumbai’s Colaba neighbourhood.
Carrot cake to Cronuts
For Messman, who had been working as a pastry chef with the Oberoi group of hotels, the idea to strike out on her own with a pastry shop was inspired by the memories of the little patisseries in the South of France, where she spent some time as a teenager on a youth exchange programme.
In 2004, with help from her mother, Messman opened the very first outlet of Theobroma, named after the taxonomic classification for the cacao tree. On the menu were chicken puffs, some chicken rolls, a handful of desserts, and just two types of brownies: walnut and chocolate chip. Over the next few years, though, the menu would grow to include chocolates, flaky croissants, and carrot cake, among other items. But at that time, Theobroma was still one of the few patisserie cafes outside of five-star hotels, and with not as much social media and travels abroad, Indian customers were initially a bit sceptical about some of the options.
“We had to actually explain some of our products to our guests; at that point, many didn’t know what a real croissant should be like, they were wondering why our croissant was flaking,” Messman explained, adding that some customers were flummoxed by the carrot cake, wondering why the cafe decided to make cake out of a vegetable.
Nevertheless, they kept coming back for more, and six years after its launch, Theobroma began expanding across the city. Today, there’s an outlet in many key neighbourhoods, serviced by a central kitchen in Bandra, and the company has grown to around 500 employees.
The menu is also expansive, including around nine different kinds of brownies, priced between Rs 65 and Rs 90, and the beloved “chip butty” sandwich stuffed with French fries. But over the years, Indian consumers have become much more aware of international food trends, so Theobroma has also tried to offer some of the quirky treats that have become big hits outside the country, including the “Cronut,” the croissant-doughnut sensation created in New York by pastry chef Dominique Ansel. Even the red velvet cake, now one of the cafe’s most popular items, was added to the menu because customers asked for it again and again, Messman said.
For regulars, what makes Theobroma stand out from the crowd of cafes and pastry shops that exist today is simply the promise of great flavour, no matter what you order on the menu.
“[Kainaz] is really passionate about her ingredients,” food writer Vikram Doctor told Quartz in an email, noting that unlike many other cafes, Theobroma avoids using premixes and processed ingredients, and seeks out real, high-quality chocolate instead of compounds made with vegetable fat. As a result, its products are much more memorable than those found elsewhere.
And that explains why its first foray outside Mumbai was met with cheers from its already established loyal following in Delhi-NCR.
Cracking the national capital
Over the past few years, a number of beloved Indian food and beverage brands, from Bengaluru’s The Fatty Bao to Delhi’s Keventers to Kolkata’s Flurys, have been entering new cities to cater to fans outside their home markets. In Delhi-NCR, Theobroma found that customers were excited to get a hold of its tasty treats without having to buy a plane ticket, and its client base has been slowly growing over the past few months.
But setting up a kitchen in a new city wasn’t easy, and Messman noted that the company wasn’t able to do enough trials at first to test out its ingredients. As a result, it discovered that the sugar available was very different from what was used in Mumbai, requiring some extra effort to get the balance of flavours right. And even the flour posed a problem at the start, producing brownies that were too hard and too dry.
The other problem was that in space-starved Mumbai, little cafes are the norm; in Delhi, though, this isn’t the case. Given its financial constraints, one of Theobroma’s outlets is a kiosk in the Mall of India, the country’s largest shopping centre, and that baffled a lot of customers who had made the trip out to Noida to visit the store.
“…we can’t really afford a large space, so people used to get disappointed with the size of the outlet,” Messman said. “…they were expecting a big, Delhi-style store and it wasn’t that.”
With funding in hand, though, Theobroma is determined to make it work. The coming months will see a new kitchen in Mumbai and 10-15 new outlets. But its fans in Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and beyond, will have to wait; for now, the focus remains on Mumbai and Delhi-NCR.
I found this interesting article in the 21-March-2007 issue of Parsiana – Dara Acidwalla
Colossus of Kathiawar
Khan Bahadur Bejanji Damri introduced legal systems and brought good goverance to the district Zenobia B. Panthaki
The period of Bejanji Damri’s stewardship as mukhia karbhari (chief secretary) was considered a golden era. His services were requisitioned by the maharajas of different states in Kathiawar and the British Political Agent valued his loyalty, earning him the title of Khan Bahadur. Gondol prospered and became a model for the rest of Kathiawar. The British Government bestowed a number of titles on the Maharaja and elevated Gondol to a Class I state. In turn, a grateful maharaja promoted Bejanji to dewan or chief minister.
My great-great-grandfather from my father’s side, Bejanji was born in 1843 in Surat. His father, Mehrwanji, was a contractor for the Raj. In 1820, when the British Army marched upon Kathiawar, Mehrwanji accompanied them as their agent for supplies and maintenance. After defeating the Peshwas in Kathiawar, the British established a Political Agency to govern the district. Seizing the opportunity, Mehrwanji established his business in Rajkot and over the next few years with acumen and foresight expanded his interests eastward to Karachi and southward to Poona.
Extensive business-related traveling was stressful and took a toll on him. In 1850 he moved his family from Surat to Rajkot but since there were no good schools in Rajkot, his son Bejanji, who at the time was seven years of age, was left in Surat with his grandparents to avail of a formal western education. In the 1800s Surat was a progressive port city, a center for trade and commerce with western influences brought to bear by European traders who docked their ships in its harbor and established trading houses along its coast. Bejanji completed his education in 1863 and moved to Rajkot, but rather than join his father’s business, opted to work as an accountant for the British Political Agent for Kathiawar.
Bejanji Damri: trusted negotiator, adjudicator
Political Agencies were the governing arm of the Raj. They were made up of a confederation of princely states ruled by local maharajas. The Agency was headed by an Agent or a Resident whose prime responsibility was to oversee the functioning of the states. The princes were given autonomy in conducting their internal affairs as long as they swore allegiance to the Governor-General and the British Crown. In 1880 the Resident, seeing Bejanji’s administrative acumen, promoted him from chief accountant to assistant district officer and challenged him to find solutions to problems that had plagued the district since times immemorial. The main obstruction to peace and progress was the ongoing lawlessness and hostility between local princes and tribals (garasyas) over land ownership. Bejanji quickly devised a two-fold solution. The first phase would be to resolve this anarchy by implementation of proper governance and legal systems. The second phase would cover the introduction of good administration and welfare projects that would benefit the public.
Bejanji set about working towards his goal. As a first step boundaries between the states and tribal lands were negotiated and clearly defined and the cause of the anarchy and frequent disputes was weeded out. Courts of justice and a system of jurisprudence were established and given a mandate to resolve these disputes in all of Kathiawar. The resolution of land disputes automatically brought about a cessation of hostilities which had plagued the district for the longest time. That having been achieved, Bejanji moved into the second phase to introduce welfare measures and improve the administration. Roads and guest houses were built for travelers, hospitals were constructed, post and telegraph systems were established and transportation made a great leap forward with the construction of the first railway link to Kathiawar. The outcome was dramatic; with peace prevailing and visible progress on welfare measures, a sense of well-being and prosperity began to take hold. In a short period of four years Bejanji had achieved his goal for a total turnaround and his reputation as an able administrator spread.
In 1884 the Maharaja of Magrol, one of the princely states of Kathiawar district, requested the British Resident for Bejanji’s services. The Resident agreed and Bejanji was seconded for seven months as mukhia karbhari, Magrol State. In that short period he was able to replicate his model of good governance, administration and welfare in Magrol which gave a further fillip to his reputation among the local maharajas and their subjects.
In August of the same year, as soon as his assignment with Magrol was over, his services were requisitioned by the Maharaja of Gondol, Bhagwat Singhji Bahadur. At that time, Gondol was a “second class” state. (During the days of the Raj, each state was assigned a class. What benchmarks were used for this categorization is unclear.) Bejanji began to overhaul the infrastructure and the administration of Gondol. The railway line was extended from Magrol to Gondol, irrigation projects with canal networks were undertaken, hospitals, schools and colleges established, and administrative buildings constructed. Roads were improved in such large measure that they were far beyond compare for their times. The Maharaja, a highly educated and well-travelled gentleman, wished to turn Gondol into a model state. His grandiose plans were executed by a meticulous Bejanji with great attention to quality of workmanship and timeliness of completion.
With his accounting background, Bejanji then turned his attention to improving the tax structure. While taxes were levied for services provided by the state, the poor and indigent were exempted. These measures served to fill the coffers of the state and provided much-needed revenue to finance development projects and welfare schemes for the poor and for farmers. The police department was overhauled to make it functionally effective and efficient. As a result fear of tribals who continued to lapse into their plunder and loot activities, was dispelled and peace and prosperity reigned.
Regardless of whom he worked for, Bejanji spoke on the side of truth and justice, unafraid to challenge the British Political Agent when necessary. Because of his western education he had an excellent command of written and spoken English and was capable of holding his ground during discussions without being intimidated. Initially, this was not viewed favourably by the Resident who reminded Bejanji that for all practical purposes he was still an employee of the Agency and warned him that his attitude might jeopardize his secondment to the maharajas. This did not deter a determined Bejanji from speaking always on the side of justice with the interest of the common man at heart. His integrity and loyalty won him the respect of the maharajas and the Resident and the trust and gratitude of the public. By virtue of the faith reposed in him he became the ex officio arbitrator and negotiator between the maharajas and the British Government and continued to be called upon by both sides (even after his retirement) to adjudicate on contentious issues.
After 40 years of loyal service to the British Political Agency, Bejanji retired in 1903 at the age of 60. At the time of his retirement he was still on secondment to Gondol. For years of devoted service, the grateful Maharaja bestowed on him a pension of the royal sum of Rs 500 a month. Since Bejanji was entitled to a government pension he graciously turned down the offer even though Rs 500 was not a sum to scoff at in the early 1900s. He retired to a simple life in his ancestral home in Rajkot and spent the next 16 years devoted to charity and social work. Bejanji was actively involved with the affairs of the Rajkot Parsi Anjuman, first as its secretary and later as its president.
In 1910, seven years after his retirement, the British Government conferred on him the title of Khan Bahadur. Bejanji passed away on December 26, 1919. Since it was Boxing Day, offices and educational institutions were closed, but as news of his death spread, shops and businesses downed their shutters as a mark of respect. The entire district of Kathiawar mourned his passing. By the Governor’s decree the Union Jack was lowered to half-mast on all British Residency buildings. The Maharaja of Gondol held a public condolence meeting at which a message was read to the large gathering of mourners by the British Resident on behalf of the Governor, Sir Ivan Mackenzie:
“I am deeply grieved to hear of the sad demise of Khan Bahadur Bejanji Mehrwanji Damri who… began his government service with the British Political Agency in 1863… In recognition of his invaluable contributions to… the district of Kathiawar, in 1910 the British Resident conferred on him the title of Khan Bahadur. While Bejanji remained loyal to the Maharajas and the British Political Agency… at all times and in all matters he kept the interests of the subjects of Gondol state and Kathiawar district close to his heart. We mourn the demise of a noble man, known for his honesty and forthright views. As rulers or lay citizens, we owe Bejanji Damri a debt of gratitude for his unstinting service to the welfare of this district and its subjects.”
Bejanji’s portraits were placed in the Bhagwat Singhji Library at Gondol and in the Lang Library at Rajkot. Bejanji’s death marked the passing of an able administrator, an honest broker and a great Zoroastrian of his time.
The author is also attempting to piece together the Damri family tree. Any members of the community who can trace their ancestry to the Damri family from Kathiawar are welcome to send their details to the author at 2320 Highland Avenue, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA or to zenobia.panthaki@gmail. com
With Christie’s set to auction a work by Adi Davierwalla, here’s a closer look at the pioneering Modernist sculptor who found his calling in scrap wood and The Space Age
Adi Davierwalla with a sculpture he made during a fellowship at The Rockefeller Foundation in 1968. Pic Courtesy/Zarine Davierwalla
The fringe benefit of having a sculptor for a father, Zarine Davierwalla will tell you, is that when you ask him for something utilitarian, he’ll probably gift you something fantastical too. As a 10-year-old, when she had asked for a study table lamp, her father, the late Modernist sculptor, Ardeshir Davierwalla fashioned an assemblage of metallic rods and blue marbles, evoking at once a starburst and primitive drawings. Only, Zarine says chidingly, it wasn’t a table lamp, as she had requested, but one that had to be mounted on a wall. “Once I saw it, I knew I couldn’t keep it all for myself,” laughs Zarine, now 62.
The lamp is the first thing that catches your eye as you enter the living room of her home in Parel. It was crafted in 1967. A year before that, Davierwalla had executed a piece out of found metal and glass, incorporating brass locks, drawer handles and small glass ampules. Titled Galaxy, the work is now on offer as part of Christie’s upcoming South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale in New York. Both the lamp and Galaxy belong to the same species of works by Davierwalla, who was known to experiment extensively with a range of materials, some of which were considered unorthodox for his time.
A sketch with notes about Galaxy from Davierwalla’s sketchbook. Pic Courtesy/Zarine Davierwalla
Fondly referred to as Adi, Davierwalla was one of India’s pioneering Modernist sculptors and passed away in 1975 at the age of 53. He and Pilloo Pochkhanawala were among the first to set the tone for a new phase of contemporary sculpture in the country. With several works in important collections, such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), it is not often that his sculptures come up for auction.
Christie’s informs us that in the last 10 years, only five Davierwalla works have been offered for sale world-over, and most have been small maquettes or models for larger pieces. Which is why, Galaxy, one of Davierwalla’s larger works, has caused quite some buzz.
Galaxy (1966). Pic/Christie’s
It is only in recent years that the interest in Davierwalla’s legacy has been rekindled, largely through the showcase provided by two iterations of the exhibition, No Parsi is an Island: A Curatorial Re-reading Across 150 Years, in 2013 and 2016, curated by Nancy Adajania and Ranjit Hoskote. Adajania, a cultural theorist, says that when they showed sculptures and sketchbooks by Davierwalla, in the first iteration of No Parsi is an Island in Mumbai, people were amazed by how contemporary these works appeared.
“Davierwalla had been supremely well-regarded in his own time but has been forgotten. He died long before the boom in modern Indian art. The last time his works were shown to the public on a grand scale was in 1979, when Ebrahim Alkazi hosted a retrospective on Davierwalla at Jehangir Art Gallery. With No Parsi is an Island, we wanted to bring to light the lost histories of Modernism, and highlight artists who have been banished from a canon dominated by the Bombay Progressives and the Baroda school,” she says.
Icarus (1970), shown as part of No Parsi is an Island: A Curatorial Re-reading Across 150 Years at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai, in 2013
Davierwalla was born in Sanjan, a village in Gujarat, and was sent to study at the age of six to St Joseph’s Boys’ School in Coonoor, where he was till he turned 18. “My father sketched through his school days; he even made little sculptures with his penknife. But, his parents were keen that he pursue a more serious profession, seeing that there was no money to be made in art,” recounts Zarine.
Davierwalla made large works for commissions. This one, titled Growth, is at IIT-Bombay’s campus
Graduating from Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI), in Matunga, he worked as a pharmaceutical chemist at Continental Drug Company, then in Worli, where he met Melba Murzello, whom he would marry. “My mother was a big influence on my father’s interest in art. She asked him to give up a career in pharmaceuticals and was sure that should there be financial hardships, she would be there to support him,” says Zarine. At her home, Zarine is surrounded by relics of her father’s legacy — the few that the family has kept after the rest were sold to collections, notably Alkazi’s. A chair, a palette-shaped table, and a bust of Christ — a gift to her mother — are among those that remain.
Playing with materials
While Davierwalla learnt the basics from noted sculptor NG Pansare, he taught himself skills such as welding and metal casting. In search of material to work with, he often sought out renovation sites, of his own home and friends’.
Crystal and Gold: A Monument to a Memory was made as a tribute to Dr Homi Bhabha. Pic Courtesy/Zarine Davierwall
From there, he would collect scrap wood and metal, allowing them to weather if required before using them in his sculptures. In a sketchbook from 1962, he had jotted down a few verses, among which was the line, ‘In a pile of junk sheer poetry.’ As much as he valued scrap, he also used new age materials, such as Plexiglas, soon after a fellowship at The Rockefeller Foundation, New York, in 1968. “We brought back stacks of Plexiglas on our return to India. Over here, he could only make a limited series since neither was Plexiglas available nor was the right kind of adhesive,” says Zarine.
Noted painter Gieve Patel, a friend of Davierwalla’s, says that his sculptures could be broadly described as sometimes organic, at other times geometric. “There are those that were related to the world of mathematics and ideal constructs that the human mind has fashioned. There were those that were to do with nature and growth. He was equally at ease with both of these,” says Patel, who wrote the introductory essay for the 1975 monograph on Davierwalla published by Lalit Kala Akademi.
Zarine Davierwalla shows a photograph of Falling Figure, a 17-feet-long work made by her father Adi Davierwalla for the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. The lamp Davierwalla made for her hangs on the wall. Pic/ShadabâÂÂÂ€ÂÂÂˆKhan
Influenced more by Western traditions of Modernist sculpture, such as those of Constantin BrâncuÈÂÂÂ™i and Picasso, Davierwalla was practising at a time when sculpture struggled to be on equal footing with painting. He also drew from Greek mythology and Christian themes for the subject and titles of his works. Patel recalls his vast collection of Western classical music LPs, which included not just the masters, but contemporary composers as well.
“In the 1950s and 60s, critics from Britain and the USA made Indian artists feel uncomfortable by questioning our interest in Western art, whether classical or modern. These critics insisted that Indian artists turn to their own tradition. What they were saying was: Stay put. However, if Picasso could study African art and Matisse could turn to Persian art, then Indian artists could look at Western art. Adi and his generation were the first to strike out for this freedom to draw inspiration from anywhere, any
period,” explains Patel.
Davierwalla’s works range from meditative sculptures in wood to dynamic assemblages in metal. In a substantial set of works, Adajania says that Davierwalla was influenced by speculative science fiction, the climate of the Cold War, Space Age explorations and advances in robotics and cybernetics. Among her favourites, she picks Icarus. “Icarus could be seen as an autobiographical work, a young man’s rebellion. The tragic and the heroic were constant themes in his art,” says Adajania. She and Hoskote are planning a retrospective on the artist, as well as co-authoring a book on him in the near future.
The sad reality for sculptors such as Davierwalla is that publicly displayed sculptures are left to neglect and fall into a state of disrepair. Three such large works, including one called Surya Dev at Bhulabhai Desai Road’s Ananta Housing Society, have now vanished. A Galaxy sighting is a grand occasion, therefore. Nishad Avari, head of sale, South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, Christie’s New York, says that the iconic sculpture draws from Davierwalla’s scientific past and his close association with Dr Homi Bhabha and the TIFR.
“It’s a dynamic monument to pioneers like Bhabha who led the technological developments of the time and the expansion of our understanding of the universe,” he says.
For Zarine, ever the daughter to her sculptor father, it is far more dear. The thing she loved the most about Galaxy was its whimsicality, the way she could twirl and play with its suspended spheres.
The concept of Organ Donation in our Community is as controversial as it is noble, and the past few weeks has seen a resurgence of debates and discussions about this topic. Noshir Dadrawala helps clear the air and do away with related confusions.
With respect to everyone’s beliefs, and with the main aim of shedding light on this topic, I share my knowledge and my beliefs on the concept of Organ Donation in order to provide clarity by doing away with any misinformation that may lead our Zarthostis to form opinions based on well-intentioned myths or worse, baseless fears.
So let’s start with the facts – the truth is that Zoroastrian scriptures are silent on the subject of organ donation, because surgery was not as advanced in those days. When scriptures are silent, tradition is often invoked. But, higher than tradition is the truth. And, the Truth is, our religion is based on Ushta or happiness and happiness comes to one who makes others happy. Let us never stray away from this fundamental precept. Our religion is also based on Asha or Truth and Righteousness. So first seek the truth before you fall prey to myths. Ask yourself this question, is it righteous to allow human suffering to persist or perish?
Who’s Body? Who’s Soul?The human body is all that we, in our physical form, really own in this material world – it is the cover we acquire in our mortal existence through this temporary journey called life. Our soul is eternal and theologically the soul returns to the spiritual world when we pass on and leave the mortal physical body behind. If that could be of use to reducing the physical misery of another soul, sent forth by the same Creator that sent us, would that make it right or wrong?
Of Karmic Debts… According to esoteric theories, the physically impaired are challenged due to some ‘karmic’ debt. In like manner, some are poor, hungry and roofless, also due to ‘karmic’ debt. By this logic, Jeejeeboy, Petit, Tata, Godrej and the Wadia families should all have kept their wealth to themselves and let the poor and roofless endure their ‘karmic’ fate! No? Who are we to lessen the burden of those who suffer due to their past or present karma? Is being charitable putting a spoke in the karmic wheel of Divine Retribution? Is this how we will justify our lack of empathy or charity when we meet our Maker?
The real essence of charity is wilfully ‘giving away something even though we may need it’. But just as we give our wealth when alive and our estates after we depart in our will, we could contribute blood or plasma while alive to save lives, and organs when we are no more! Charity can be done as much during life as after death.
Debunking Dokhma Myths: Some believe that amputed or severed body parts should be consigned to the Dokhma, after performing the GehSarna ritual. I’m certain, like me, a number of you may have had your tonsils removed as children, or maybe an appendix or a cyst? I’m sure, like me, you wouldn’t know what your doctors did with that! An uncle had his gall bladder and appendix removed. There is high incidence of breast and ovarian cancer among Parsi women and prostrate and testicular cancers among Parsi men. I really can’t think of priests performing ceremonies over these body parts and consigning them to the Dokhma!
In fact, if one goes strictly by the scriptures, the Dokhma should be situated far away from habitation. But we don’t cater to that – and have in fact, built a Parsi colony where there was once a jungle! According to esoteric Zoroastrianism, the body should be fully disposed by the fourth day and the ‘anasaar’ (spiritual components) handed over to Daham Yazata. But, it is a fact that today, bodies take months to decompose. Would you rather have a crow or a kite peck out your loved one’s eyes or a surgeon skilfully save the cornea to light up someone else’s darkness?
Ponder This: I have a dear Parsi friend (now 83 years young) who lost vision in one eye 40, years ago. From a super active and creative Bank executive, he suddenly became a helpless, dependent individual. 17 years later, he lost vision in the other eye. Thanks to a donor, he got back his vision and his life returned to normalcy, and he’s now immersed himself in social work, thanks to which, over a thousand Parsis have visited Iran over the last two decades! Think about it – should he have accepted blindness as karmic retribution or undergone surgery and made a difference in this world with the gift of sight? Thanks to this experience, several members of his family (including his mother and wife) have already donated their eyes after death!
In Conclusion: Please let’s not make an issue of this noble and ultimate gesture of humanity – If you feel like donating blood to save a life, go ahead and donate. If you wish to donate your cornea, kidney, liver or heart after death, go ahead! You could also donate your skin and bring relief to a person who is badly burnt and in agony. But, if you do not wish to do so, that also would be alright. After all, whose body is it anyway?
This article has been written neither with the intent to fan the flame of this controversy nor to offend any orthodox/traditional sentiments. To each their own … for those who wish to donate their organs after death, no coaxing will be needed, and those who do not wish to, no argument will be convincing. From dust I came, and to dust I shall return… or from life I came and to life I shall give back and live on in someone else’s eyes or heart. That choice is entirely yours!
Soroush is the first creation of Ahuramazda who learnt Gathas by heart, offering its worship to Ahuramazda with a branch of Barsam. It is one of Bahaman’s companions. Listening to Soroush is to hear and obey Ahuramazda’s orders.
Barsam represents all trees, vegetations and plants. It is a bundle of small twigs of a tree, usually cut from Pomegranate tree or Myrtle by a special knife called Barsamchin while reciting some prayers during the procedure. The whole process is a ritual and after the barsams are cut and washed they are tied together with a strand of palm leaf.
In the Book of creation called Bon-dahesh, each Amshaspand is symbolized by a flower-plant: Below is the list of Amshaspands and the flower attributed to them:
Ahuramazda is represented by Myrtle, Bahman with white Jasmin, Ordibehesht with Marjoram, Sharivar with Basil, Sepandarmaz with Melissa, Khorda’d with Iris, Morda’d with Lily.
As we will see, flowers and plants seen in the stone-carvings of Persepolis are symbols of the above Amshaspands and other determining principles of Zoroaster’s faith. This is a very important point overlooked by all Iranologists who identified them wrongly as enumerated below:
The Barsam held in the hand of the King Darius is identified as Lotus.
Flowers surrounding Frahvashi (Fravahar) are identified as palm tree.
The decorations around the neck of the cow as lotus bud calling it 12 petal flower.
Lotus actually found a place in Iranian art and architecture as the flower symbolizing the Iranian goddess of water, Anahita enjoying a very important place in Iranian Mythology. Later we will show that considering the climatic environment of Persepolis (a dry mountainous place), the flower identified as Lotus (famous as flower of marshes) in its stone-reliefs, could not possibly be this flower.
Flowers held by the king and the crown prince are thought to be Egyptian due to the presence of a bud between two blossoms and the arrangement of the stem.
In the images of Persepolis, while the first four passages are pictorially represented by the victory of goodness (in the image of the king or a royal hero) over devils, the last two passages through Khorda’d (perfection) and Morda’d (eternal life) representing the highest aspirations, spring of life and creativity, fertility, growth and final unification with Ahuramazda are illustrated masterfully and in a poetical way, in the form of their symbol, the flower Iris (notice the joined stems of images 10 & 11), particularly in those images conveying the concept of holiness.
Image 10- Stems of Iris: (a) Right Persepolis Stone-carvings. (b) Left, Iris Aphylla
Image 11-(a) The underground rhizomes of iris and their connection with each other (b) Iris growing in a line (c) The stone-carvings with underground rhizomes, (d) A general view of Persepolis stone-carving, notice the similarities b/w the real flower of Iris and the stone carvings in (a) and (b).
It is not in vain that the presence of frahvashi (fravahar), symbolizing the whole path of this spiritual journey (passages through the 6 Amshaspands) and attainment of holiness and eternal life (reaching the light of lights (khavarafkhashia) which is the most important part of the Zoroastrian transcendental philosophy is depicted next to Iris (see image 12).
Image 12- Presence of fravashi (fravahar) as the symbol of spiritual evolution (passage through six Amshaspand) and attainment of holiness and eternal life next to Iris.
On the other hand, the flower symbolizing one of the assistants of Amshaspand Morda’d, the divinity Rashn is Eglantine; a flower with a pleasant calming scent seen repeated in the frames of the stone-reliefs between cypresses like a scaffold, protecting the line of guests like a canopy (Image number 13). The continued presence of Eglantine as a symbol of protection and preservation of life (both humans and gardens) can be found in “Ershad-ol-zera’-eh” (a guidebook of gardening) written in 16th century, containing the history of garden-making in ancient Iran.
Image 13 – Repetition of flowers in the frames of Cyrus Hall like scaffolds of eglantine sheltering the guests as an allusion to the divinity Rashn – (Images of stone-reliefs of Iran, British Museum, 1932).
Now comes the question of lotus and its connection with barsam. As it was mentioned before, a number of researchers have wrongly identified barsam (the symbol of all trees and vegetations) in Darius’ hand as Lotus, and speculated it to be the same flower seen around the neck of animals, overlooking the fact that this flower can hardly grow in dry climatic weather of Pars ( Fars ). In addition to requiring special conditions for its growth, lotus is very sensitive to light and humidity. It is a flower growing in marshes closing its petals when the light fades. Lotus with the sharp end of its blossoms and the inner curving of its petals as well as its sensitivity and impermanence could not be the flower used during long rituals (from the beginning of preparation of barsam to the end of ceremonies) which instead required a longer lasting flower (Image number 14).
Image No. 14- Lotus and its natural bio-ecological environment (aquatic).
Image number 15 shows the similarity of the flower in Darius’ hand, with pomegranate flower. From the bio-ecological point of view, apart from its sacredness and beauty, pomegranate flower is more in harmony with the climatic conditions of the region and physiologically it is more resistant than aquatic flowers, therefore it is a more appropriate flower to be used in long ceremonies.
Image No.15 -Similarity of barsam in Darius’ hand (right) with pomegranate flower (left).
In Avesta we read: “It is said, the divinity Soroush spreads barsam, three times, five times, seven times and nine times and offers the worship to Ahuramazda.”
In Yasna (chapter 43, paragraph 12) it is said: “When you ordered me ‘Appeal to asha and know her’ you told me unheard words: Try to let Soroush penetrate you to recognize divine graciousness granting reward and punishment to both groups.”
Soroush is one of the divinities playing an important role in the struggle against devils. It is said in Bondahesh: “Soroush received the task of guardianship from Ahuramazda. In the same way that Ahuramazda is the Lord of the heaven and the universe, Soroush is the Lord of the world and it is said, Ahuramazda is a spirit protecting the soul, while Soroush is a spirit protecting the world. For Soroush has not slept well since the creation of living beings in order to guard them. According to Abu Reyhan, Soroush is a divinity guarding the night and some say he is Gabriel. The soul of the dead reaches the Chinvad Bridge protected by Soroush. I praise, the brave pious dutiful Soroush. He is brave because when he turns his club toward Khorasan (East), fear is subsided until he points it to the west. He is dutiful because he obeys the God. And he is astonishing because devils are dispersed by his stroke. He is divine because he rules arzeh (the country of the East) and saveh (the country of the West) (zand akasieh 220, Rahim Afifi, Iranian Mythology and Culture in Pahlavi texts).
That is why holding barsam – whether it is the king or an ordinary Zoroastrian – represents continuous remembrance of the presence of Soroush (Gabriel).
From all that is said above, Zoroastrian religious and ritual beliefs were so blended with everyday life of ancient Iranians that one can trace them in all aspects of life including their architecture. Illustration of the opposition of good and evil, the spiritual presence of Amshaspands in the figure of the king in stone-reliefs and entrapment of devils by using their sculptures as column capital all point to the above integration. Considering that Persepolis was the place where Achaemenids held their religious rites, ceremonies and mysteries, surely the images found there should be an allusion to the ruling ideas and ideals of their era manifested in the form of mythological symbols of their divinities. The subtle intelligent practice of Achaemenids in illustrating their basic religious beliefs for various peoples with different religious faiths living in the vast Persian Empire attending various ceremonies in the Palace is an example of the respect the kings of this dynasty had for the freedom in faith and ethics of their subjects. In all the stone-carvings with an allusion to spiritual beliefs, the Amshaspands Khorda’d and Morda’d have a prominent presence in the figure of Iris flower. Attribution of a flower to each Amshaspand represents the close relationship of Achaemenid religious beliefs with their natural environment and regional climatic conditions in which lotus can not have a logical reasonable place.
The above analysis is an effort made to show the Iranian origin of what is seen in stone-reliefs of Persepolis, their relation with religious beliefs of that era and refutation of non-Iranian root of the images found there. This is a new approach demanding extensive studies for further decoding of the remaining reliefs.
extracted from :
A New Approach to Stone Reliefs of Persepolis
By Khoobchehr Keshavarzi (translated By Roya Monajem, Tehran)
Based on ritual, religious beliefs and the impact of the environment
Please do not
Try to be a peacock
When one is a crow
‘Cause what one reaps
Is what one sows!
To be a Zoroastrian
Or not to be?
That’s begs the question
Nobody is preventing anyone
From becoming A Zarthushti
“Hear with your ears
Ponder with a Good Mind”
Isn’t that the legacy
That Asho Zarathustra’s
Left for all of humankind?
“Great Leaders are great listeners
Who know their best assets
Is people they work with” Richard Branson
So kindly give up
The ego as well as pride
As in the end one
Being sheep in
Moaning & groaning
About the problem
We are facing
(Our Zoroastrian Community
Have a spine
Right the wrong
To all I say:
“You are the (sole)
Masters of your Fate
And Captain of your souls”
Look around you
And you will hear
As well see
Hatred Violence Bigotry
Let’s not Zoroastrianism
‘Cause what God
Hath put together
Let no “person”
When I told my father that I wanted to write a story on Parsi vegetarian dishes, he screwed up his eyes, and then said, “That’s tough! You will have a lot of combing through recipes to do.” Then I told my friend, who looked blankly at me and asked, “But why? Where’s the fun in that?” Last of all (and I should have done this first), I told my mother, who laughed and gave me a whole bunch of recipes that she regularly makes at home. So here they are, a few Parsi dishes that just happen to be vegetarian.Tarela
Kera or Fried Bananas
This one is so simple that it is a crying shame more people don’t make it at home. This was also a favourite recipe of my great aunt; Bombay’s Bhaji Gully was a mere hop from her house, and it is where she always bought the bananas from.
How to Make:
Peel and cut 6 very ripe, yellow-skinned bananas into 4to 5 pieces. Heat the ghee, either in your regular saucepan or a kadhai, and when it heats up, add the bananas, but just a few at a time, and spacing them out, so they don’t become one sticky mass. When the bottom crust fries to a red, turn them over carefully. When both sides are red, remove and drain on a paper napkin.
Image credit: Istock
Papeta nu Salan
This is our version of Aloo Poori, and is meant to be eaten with pooris. You can always add or subtract chillies, as per your taste.
Potatoes, big 5
Green chillies 4, split and de seeded
Curry leaves 6 to 7 sprigs
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Red chillies, small 2
4-5 tbsp peanut oil
Wash and clean the potatoes, then boil them with the skin. Once boiled, peel and cut into pieces.
Make a tadka with the mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chillies. Then add in the potatoes and salt, and chilli powder. Cook on a slow flame and let the potatoes soften slightly, by sprinkling a palmful of water. Then add in the whole red chillies. Let this cook for seven minutes or until cooked properly.
Clean and wash the vaal, and chop up the coriander.
Grate the coconut, and split into two separate containers. From one half, extract thick coconut milk. Into the other half, add the ginger, garlic, jeera, and the chillies, and grind into a fine paste.
Next, extract the paste from the tamarind. Make sure it is thick. Then add the jaggery in the paste, and keep aside.
Finely dice the onions, and fry until they start sputtering. Then add in the coconut masala, the turmeric, the Parsi dhana jeera, and salt to taste.
When the masala is well-roasted, but not burnt, add two cups pf water. Bring to a boil, then add in the vaal. Cover, and let it cook. Once it is nearly cooked, add the coconut milk, and let the vaal soften further. Finally, add the jaggery and tamarind. Once it all thickens to a thick gravy add the coriander as a garnish.
Parsi Vegetable Stew
This is often known as Lagan Sara Stew, as it used to be served at celebratory wedding meals (‘lagan’ means wedding). It is a sweet and sour stew, made mostly with root vegetables. (Other recipes call for the addition of bananas, green peas, even capsicum or papdi, but we are purists, and don’t add any of that.)
Wash and dice the potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and carrots. Fry each ingredient separately, and then set aside.
Chop five tomatoes, leaving the sixth one intact.
Next, finely chop the onions, and fry them until they turn light brown. Drop in the chopped tomatoes, the turmeric, the chilli powder, and stir. Add all the fried vegetables, and the whole tomato. Next, pour in one cup of water, and cook for ten minutes. Make sure everything is well mixed, before you toss in the sugar and vinegar, then simmer for a couple of minutes. Serve hot, with the chillies as a garnish.
Bharath -This is our version of a baingan bharta.
Brinjals 750g, seedless
Green onions 6, medium
Green garlic 6
Coriander 1 bundle
Ginger garlic paste 1/2 tsp
Oil to taste
Green chillies 8, deseeded (or as per plate)
Jeera 1 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Thick, tangy-sour curd 450g
Finely chop the green onions, onions, green garlic, coriamder, and chillies.
Pound the jeera, but not too finely
Image credit: Istock
Peel the brinjal, and cut into half, diagonally. Then, along with 2 cups pf water, and 1 tsp salt, put it to boil. After the water dries up, the brinjal should be more or less cooked. Remove it from the flame, and mash it up.
In a kadhai, add oil, then the onions, and then the white part of the green onion. Fry until golden, then tip in the green part of the green onions. Stir in the ginger garlic, turmeric, green garlic, jeera, coriander and chillies, and fry.
Add the brinjal into the masala, and cook for ten minutes. Then reduce the flame, and cook until the masalas have seeped into the brinjal.
Meanwhile, beat the dahi, then, keeping the flame low, mix it into the brinjal. Serve!
About the Author:
Meher Mirza is an independent writer and editor, with a focus on food and travel. Formerly with BBC Good Food India, she loves anime, animals and artsy things but also comics, technology and death metal.
Meher Mirza | Smart Cooky, NDTV, August 26, 2017 15:25IST
Pilloo Aga, finance director, Gold Seal Group, receives the award from Kamal Chaudhari, president AIRIA; Vikram Makar, senior VP, AIRIA; and Vinod Bansal, chairman, WR/MC member AIRIA. Also seen are her husband Cyrus Aga and sons Urvaksh Aga and Darius Aga.
The All India Rubber Industries Association (AIRIA) has honoured Pilloo Aga, financial director of the Gold Seal Group, with its ‘Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Indian Rubber Industry’.
She was presented the award at the recently concluded All India National Rubber Conference held in Mumbai, which was attended by captains of the industry, both from the manufacturing and trading segments.
Pilloo Aga has been with the Gold Seal Group since 1980, gradually working her way up to become a director. The Gold Seal Group was established by H E Aga in 1958 to supply door seals and glass runs as import substitute products for the Indian automobile industry. In 1960, Gold Seal began OEM supplies to Fiat Automobiles (later Premier Automobiles) and to Hindustan Motors shortly afterwards. In 1972, exports began to Sri Lanka, the Far East, East Africa and a couple of years later to the UK and Europe.
In 1997, as industry demand grew for newer technologies, Pilloo Aga was instrumental in Gold Seal setting up two joint ventures. The first one was a JV with SaarGummi of Germany to expand its core business of door seals and glass runs, together known as weather strips. The second JV came about with Avon Rubber of the UK for the manufacture of coolant conveying systems.
The Gold Seal Group today operates from three locations in India: Mumbai (site of the original manufacturing facility and now the head office for the Group); Daman (the main manufacturing hub); and Sanand (customer service point for customers in Gujarat).
Pilloo Aga, as finance director, is known to have aggressively driven the Gold Seal Group’s expansion. Having held the purchase portfolio for the Group, she has had a long association with different arms of the rubber industry – from raw materials manufacturers and traders through to rubber machinery manufacturers. The award, conferred by the All India Rubber Industries Association, is to recognise her contribution in driving the growth of the rubber industry in India.
Leading entrepreneur Pilloo Aga has been an active member of the ACMA managing committee since 1992. During her tenure as chairperson of the Western Region from 1999-2003, she was instrumental in building membership, especially from the MSME sectors, and was recognised for several programmes organised in the Western Region of interest to industry. She was also awarded the ‘Best Woman Entrepreneur’ award by the Mariwala Foundation in association with the Indian Merchants Chamber Of Commerce.
The award was presented to Pilloo Aga by Kamal Chaudhari, president AIRIA; Vikram Makar, senior VP, AIRIA; and Vinod Bansal, chairman, WR/MC member AIRIA, in the presence of her family members – husband Cyrus Aga and sons Urvaksh Aga and Darius Aga.
Commenting on her award, Pilloo Aga said: “I am thankful to the All India Rubber Industries Association, the managing committee and all the members for this recognition of the 30-plus years I have been in this industry, which I entered as a novice and a non-technical person. I have worked hard all these years and the support everyone present here has given me – be it the raw materials suppliers, capital equipment makers and the various service providers – has been outstanding. They welcomed and nurtured me, respected me, and I am truly honoured and inspired.”
Professor Perin Boga has played a significant role in the promotion of theater in Pakistan, mainly in Lahore, a prominent cultural center of the country. She has trained several leading theater artists mainly including girls. Professor Perin Boga represents one of the only few Parsi families that are left in Lahore. Pakistan Saga’s correspondent Ali Abbas conducted a detailed interview with Professor Perin in this video report.